Wildfires tally swells to more than 100 recorded by Craig Interagency Dispatch Center
July 24, 2018
CRAIG — As three large fires continued to burn in Northwest Colorado, many more have been successfully suppressed. As of 4 p.m. Tuesday, July 24, the Craig Interagency Dispatch Center has responded to 107 wildfires and 10 false alarms and made 38 smoke checks. Most of the fires have been small and were quickly suppressed.
Stage 1 Fire Restrictions are still in effect in the area as crews continue to battle three fires — the Indian Valley Fire in Rio Blanco and Moffat counties, the Sulphur Fire in Rio Blanco County and the Silver Creek Fire in Routt and Grand counties.
Hot, dry and often windy weather has resulted in dynamic fire behavior. Following is the latest information on each of these fires, current as of 4 p.m. Tuesday.
Silver Creek Fire
The Silver Creek Fire was reported about noon Thursday, July 19, and, as of about 11:30 a.m.Tuesday, it had burned about 110 acres of lodgepole, spruce and fir pine forest on Gore Mountain in Routt National Forest near the Routt/Grand county line. The cause of the fire is unknown, and about 25 firefighters were assigned to the blaze.
A closure order has been issued for the Silver Creek Fire area in Routt and Arapaho national forests in Routt and Grand counties.
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The order was created for the entire Sarvis Creek Wilderness and all National Forest System lands adjacent to the east, including the Red Dirt Reservoir area and the National Forest System Road 100, from the junctions of FSR 250 and FSR 101 in the southern portion of FSR 100 to the junction of FSR 317 in the northern portion of FSR 100, a distance of approximately 20 miles, according to information released Sunday on Inciweb.
The purpose of the order is to provide for public and firefighter safety due to the impacts of the wildland fire and associated fire incident management activities.
The order prohibits the public from going into or being upon an affected area, being on closed roads or entering or being in an affected area. Federal, state and local officers, or members of an organized rescue or firefighting force, in the performance of an official duty, are exempt from the prohibition, as are any persons operating in an official capacity, as determined by the agency administrator per a letter of authorization.
The order went into effect July 22 and will continue until rescinded.
Sulphur Creek Fire
One of two lightning-caused fires burning in Rio Blanco County, crews began responding to the Sulphur Creek fire about 3:30 p.m. Sunday. The fire had burned 677 acres between Sulphur Creek and Wilson Creek in Rio Blanco County, about 5 miles north of Meeker, with only 5 percent containment as of 4 p.m. Tuesday.
Volatile fire behavior created by gusting winds and plentiful oak brush and grass to fuel the fire prompted evacuation and pre-evacuation of residents Sunday evening.
"As the winds continued to be erratic, pushing the fire, we took all precautions to keep all safe and put evacuation orders in from mile marker 2.5 to the end of County Road 11, as well as putting pre-evacuation orders in effect with Sage Hills residences. The winds calmed down, letting the fire settle (enabling officials to) lift the pre-evacuation around 11 p.m. (Sunday)," according to the Rio Blanco Sheriff's Office Facebook page.
County Road 11 — the Sulphur Creek Road — remained closed to public travel as of 4 p.m. Tuesday, and motorists were warned to be prepared for heavy fire traffic along roads in the fire area.
“Fire crews, with support from air resources, are building a fire line to prevent the Sulphur Fire from moving farther south toward Meeker. Engines are working along the Sulphur Creek Road, strengthening fire lines to protect scattered homes in the area. Air tankers are dropping fire retardant to slow down the fire spread to the south and protect the high-voltage power lines running through the fire. Helicopters are dropping buckets of water to cool down hot spots near the edge of the fire, supporting firefighters on the ground,” according to a news release from Jeff Andrew’s Southwest Area Type 2 incident management team.
About 75 personnel are assigned to the fire, including a Type 2 team that is providing support in fighting both tje Sulfur Creek and Indian Valley fires to assist initial attack crews from local fire departments — Moffat and Rio Blanco counties, Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control and federal agencies — who have been busy responding to lightning starts that have been kept small.
Indian Valley Fire
Lightning also sparked the Indian Valley Fire, which was reported burning about 16 miles northwest of Meeker across the Rio Blanco and Moffat County lines. The fire was initially reported about 1:30 p.m. Friday. The fire — burning in timber understory, short grass and brush — impacted both private and public land and sent ash north into Craig on Friday.
According to RMACC’s Large Incident Report for Sunday, 15 structures are threatened. An update posted by the current incident command team Sunday stated sage grouse habitat is also in danger.
As of 4 p.m. Tuesday, the fire was reported to have burned 7,000 acres and was only 1-percent contained.
“Firefighters will be working to build fire line along Colorow BLM 1515 and contain the far eastern edge of the Indian Valley Fire. Firefighters are working to prevent fire from moving any closer to ranching structures and oil and gas well pads in the area. The northern side of the fire is being monitored closely from the air,” according to the news release from the Jeff Andrew’s Southwest Area Type 2 incident management team.
The team asks motorists to stay away from the fire area to make way for heavy fire traffic along roads, as well as firefighters working near Colorado BLM road number 1515. About 140 personnel have been assigned to this fire.
A small amount of rain has helped increase humidity, but conditions on the ground continue to be extremely dry and challenging for firefighters in northwestern Colorado.
Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.